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Have I Ever Told You?

The things we forget to say

I rarely tell my dad that I love to listen to his music together. When he drives too fast to Lynyrd Skynyrd, I feel closest to him.

It’s all of it, really--my father’s excitement, the superstition about his “lucky” band, how he can secretly sing…I love when we have a routine, like how I used to set up a desk to study beside him on weekends.

I love when he reminds me that I’m never alone--every last night of summer he would outline the school year to ease my nerves. It’s when he brings me to the places he’s always eaten and walked, tells me stories from a life I wasn’t part of, and starts his sentences with “I know you’ll appreciate this.”

I love that we love the same things--because we already did, because he introduced me, or simply because they’re his. My favorite things about my father are the ones he shares with me.

And, the other day, he shared something from a podcast. As we drove to the beach with my mother and brother, my dad explained an exercise. We were all to tell what we like and dislike that each person does.

I first thought one category would be easier to answer than the other. Elliot (my brother) always begs me to stop borrowing his socks, my mom insists that I clean out my closet, and my dad that I don’t hum while he speaks.

But, surprisingly, Elliot and I dancing in the living room came to mind first. My brother’s smile when he has a secret to tell me and, beyond that, the fact that he trusts me enough to tell it. I love that Elliot understands many parts of me; I don't have to give background when telling him a story. There is nothing like my brother when he cares about something--how he learns it relentlessly. As his biggest supporter, I love the way he does things for himself and is unfazed by outside opinions (as his sister, it’s the most irritating thing in the world).

I didn’t say that, though. Instead, my father went first. He loves it when I write, when Elliot teaches him something, and when my mom gets excited for a plan.

My mother was the only other one to answer the question, as we all needed more time to think. She said it’s her favorite when Elliot smiles… and it really is. When I think of what I might admire most about my mother, her compassion is an obvious answer. But, that’s not what she does, it’s who she is.

So, I love it most when my mom does things for herself. When she takes her time in the gym or gets a manicure…especially if she lets me keep her company. I love when she’s a little selfish, because she deserves her all the time but chooses us instead. That she can’t help but ask if I want to stay in Miami, knowing the answer is no. It’s her insistence on a plan and excitement over simple things, like a Sunday at the beach with the three people she sees every day. More than anything else, I love that she sees me as her confidante…even if that’s a little selfish too.

I know this is sweet, but do not be mistaken--the list of things I’m bothered by is equally long. However, we tend to let people know what they do that we don’t like. It comes out in arguments, remarks, and body language without us even realizing.

How often do we remember to share with our loved ones that we appreciate them, let alone why? When we can recognize and express what we like, we enable others to do the same. It is by both speaking and understanding that we deepen our relationships--even those we didn’t think could get any deeper.

Dedicated to my dad, who hasn't been able to stop talking about this question for days… I hope this is a valid response


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